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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins-Buccaneers Preseason Game 2 Preview — What to Expect

Travis Wingfield

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An important encore showing for the quarterbacks, entire Dolphins roster awaits at the pirate ship in Tampa Bay

After a surprising start on offense, and a disappointing showing on defense, the Dolphins will look to clean things up in the second edition of Brian Flores football in Miami.

Preseason week-two brings the Dolphins north to Tampa Bay for the first road game of the Flores era. A recurring nightmare under the previous regime, this is the first opportunity to right the road woes that produced a 7-17 mark away from Hard Rock Stadium dating back to the 2016 season. Throw in the 2017 “home game” versus the Saints in London, and the 2016 playoff game in Pittsburgh and the total rises to 7-19, a .269 winning percentage.

In the midst of a quarterback battle, the expectation is for Ryan Fitzpatrick to start the game, but for Josh Rosen to take his first game snaps with the first-team offense.

With all eyes on that battle, the fact that Miami is walking wounded into this game is somewhat concealed.

Injuries/Not Expected to Play:

Dolphins:

LB Raekwon McMillan
LB Chase Allen
LB Kiko Alonso
LB Quentin Poling
LB Andrew Van Ginkel
WR Albert Wilson
WR Jakeem Grant
RB Kenyan Drake
S Reshad Jones
S Walt Aikens
S T.J. McDonald
CB Cordrea Tankersley
DL Robert Nkemdiche

Miami added veteran Terrance Smith to the roster on Sunday — he will play early and often in his Dolphins debut with the rash of linebacker injuries.

Tampa Bay:

DL Vita Vea
LB Lavonte David
S Justin Evans
WR Scotty Milner

As Coach Flores would say, we’re here to talk about the guys that are out there.

10 Things to Expect from DolphinsBucs

Stacking Consecutive Good Performances

Turn on any presser from Coach Flores and you’ll hear a message in redundancy; a message that revolves around consistency and stacking up good days consecutively. Every team has a list of standout performers from the first preseason game. The group of players that will repeat that performance in game-two dwindles significantly. Those that can strike twice are the players that will catch the eye of this coaching staff.

Jonathan Ledbetter and Nate Orchard received first-team promotions for their efforts week-one. Both players fit in with the style of defensive-line-play this staff wants. The same is true of Dewayne Hendrix — who’s sack barrage carried over from practice into the game.

Isaiah Prince had a good game sandwiched in between a bunch of bad practices. Can he rewrite a pair of rough showings against the Bucs and turn it up when the lights come on?

Jomal Wiltz and Cornell Armstrong had solid games and have really come on in camp — this position group is in urgent need of one young player rising to the occasion.

Terrill Hanks and Tre Watson had quality games and have an opportunity to nail down a spot in a walking-wounded linebacker corps.

Michael Dunn, Trenton Irwin, Myles Gaskin, and Torry McTyer shined in the preseason opener — they’ll need to take it up another level to enter roster-bubble discussion.

Can Josh Rosen Overtake the Wiley Veteran?

The plan sounds confusing on the surface, but it’s actually quite simple. Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to start, play a couple of series, then give way to Rosen. The 22-year-old will get work with the first team, then lead the second unit in another week of extended playing time.

Rosen, himself, admits that he’s behind in the mental aspect of the game. The only way for him to catch up is to see as many live bullets as possible. I’ll be watching to see how he manages compromised pockets, how he communicates with his offense, and how decisive he is going through his progressions.

This is a big night in the overall battle for opening day starter rights.

Is the Unicorn — Preston Williams — Stoppable?

Transcending cult hero, Preston Williams has reached full-fledged training camp legend status — and he’s earned it. After an impressive first two weeks, followed up by an utterly dominant showing in his preseason debut, Williams is back at it going up against Tampa Bay defensive backs.

The message for Williams has been to continue to work, and check the ego at the door. The new star is still an undrafted free agent yet to play a regular season game, and that’s why he’s running on punt-return, gunning on punts and kicks, and even working to field punts.

Flores previously mentioned that they want talented players that are prepared to challenge themselves to make the most of that natural talent. That latter — the talent — is there, now we find out if Williams is a tireless worker.

Big Night for the Offensive Line

Improvement is the expectation here. For starting rookies Michael Deiter and Shaq Calhoun, give us more in the passing game. Both players did fine with run-blocking duties, but the pair had ugly moments in pass sets.

Is Laremy Tunsil going to play? There’s no reason for him to be bothered to play, though I’d expect to see one or two series. The Jordan Mills experiment likely continues after Tunsil taps out, and that’ll be a real test of the veteran’s mettle after he was embarrasses last Thursday.

Jesse Davis and Daniel Kilgore had the best nights of the starters — albeit on just 13 snaps. As the search for another sure-fire starter among the other four not named Tunsil continues, getting consistency out of Davis at right tackle would be a big win.

What Exactly is Jerome Baker’s Role?

Baker played 15 snaps and registered five tackles, three of which came within two yards of the line-of-scrimmage. In camp, Baker was consistently showing pressure in the A-gaps, blitzing the edge, and getting heavily involved as a pass rusher. That didn’t happen once on Thursday, so what gives?

Are they hiding his actual role for the regular season, or is the experiment telling us that he’s better suited to play off the ball? Friday will provide more clues.

Minkah Fitzpatrick Bounce Back

Missing tackles is not a term synonymous with the former Bednarik and Thorpe Awards winner. Despite spilling out one run rather impressively, Fitzpatrick had a key missed tackle on a long run down to the Miami one-yard-line.

A strange Twitter exchange occurred between an account belonging to Fitzpatrick’s parents and Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun Sentinel where Fitz’s parents claimed he’s out of position. With Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald both missing practice, Fitzpatrick has been taking on more box duty, something he’s not a fan of doing, per his comments after Wednesday’s practice.

Fitzpatrick grew up in adverse circumstances, but he’s been nothing short of perfect every time he’s stepped on a football field. I’m excited to watch him overcome some on-field adversity, and I have zero doubt that he will.

A Closer Watch on the 21-Personnel Package

Chandler Cox’s 14 reps (21% of Miami’s offensive snaps) provides a context clue into a significant chunk of Miami’s plans on offense this year. Additionally, Mark Walton stepped in for the injured Kenyan Drake in 21 sets that did not feature a fullback, so this grouping is here to stay.

Who will back up Cox in the event of an injury? With multiple traditional Y tight ends on the roster, the answer might not be that difficult. Nick O’Leary has done it before, and Durham Smythe is more than capable of fulfilling backup fullback duties.

Mental Toughness Test

90% of the game is half-mental, right? From John Madden’s legendary proclamation, Miami will learn a lot about a few players and their mental makeup in this game.

It was a challenging debut for UDFA Cornerback Nik Needham. His response will show the type of character — or lack thereof — that this coaching staff covets so dearly.

The same is true of Jordan Mills. Mills played left tackle in the game despite getting minimal run at the spot in practice beforehand. There’s no reason to think he won’t play off the blindside once more, his response could be crucial to him keeping a job.

Charles Harris’ demotion could be the final nail. Last year, Harris admitted to battling the mental side of the game during his rookie season in 2017, but it doesn’t appear as though he’s playing any faster. This could be the final wake-up call for the former first-round pick.

Who Steps up for the Down Kenyan Drake?

Mark Walton appears to be in-line for the third tailback job, which could elevate to the second man up with news of Drake’s injury. It won’t be handed to Walton, however. Myles Gaskin and Patrick Laird had impressive debuts in the first game, and the pair are tireless workers before and after practice (regularly the last two to leave the field).

Joint-Practices Take Away from the Game Play

One of the many benefits of joint-practices is the increased live reps a team can assess. Going up against a different jersey more closely simulates game action than practicing against friendly fire, and the extra reps could change the way Miami hands out snaps on game night.

This is particularly true of the quarterback position. While Rosen needs every possible rep, perhaps Fitzpatrick’s work on Tuesday and Wednesday will give Miami more comfort in giving game action to the kid over the vet.

The Dolphins played every healthy body in the preseason opener. The competition all throughout camp has been fierce, and one of changing roles and depth charts. As the season draws closer, the Phins might start condensing the workload and begin to give more attention to the players that figure prominently into the season’s plans.

Keep an eye on the special teams, as well as the third-team offense and defense — those could provide us with an idea of which players will round out this 53-man roster.

We’ll have the most in-depth post-game report both here on the site, and on the Locked On Dolphins podcast a couple of hours after the final whistle blows on Friday night.

@WingfieldNFL

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  1. Avatar

    Edan

    August 15, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    Why does Miami always have so many injured topflight players? It’s so frustrating to watch the team start to gel with good talent, and then they’re gone. 4 Bucs are injured, 13 Dolphins. Mostly starters.

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Miami Dolphins

Taco Charlton: New Acquisition Analysis

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins go back to the 2017 first round defensive end well, claim Charlton from waivers

The 2017 Dolphins were, sadly, one of the more anticipated teams this organization has assembled in recent memory. Fresh off a surprise 10-win season, heading into year-two of the new system, and bevy of players returning from injury had fans feeling optimistic.

Patching up the perceived holes on the roster — like the defensive end position — started with an atrocious Andre Branch extension, and ended on the draft’s opening night with a handful of edge rusher prospects ripe for picking.

Derek Barnett came off the board before Miami could pluck the future Super Bowl hero, but everyone else was available. Jonathan Allen was selected five picks ahead of the Dolphins, but he was billed more as a three and five-technique inside player, not a true edge rusher.

That left Charles Harris, Taco Charlton, Tak McKinley and T.J. Watt. Two of those players are off to sterling starts in their young careers — the other two are nearing their respective last legs, and both are now Miami Dolphins.

Charlton received his release from the Cowboys earlier this week after an under-whelming 34-game stay in Big D. Taco’s snap count is revealing of the feeling about the player among the Dallas staff.

 

Year Taco Charlton Defensive Snaps Played (% of Cowboys’ Defensive Snaps)
2017 399 (38.2%)
2018 401 (39.2%)
2019 0

 

A 40-percent snap-taker is typically indicative of one of two things for an edge player. He’s either a situational savant — whether that’s to support the run game or pin his ears back and get after the quarterback — or that he’s the second option in the rotation, A.K.A. a backup.

Charlton’s production suggests that he was the latter, and only because of his draft status. His descent into a game day inactive signaled the end of his time with the club that drafted him.

Rumors of a trade were speculated as the reason Charlton was a healthy scratch for the season’s first two games, but Head Coach Jason Garrett referred to the numbers game. “We have 10 guys on the active roster on the defensive line and we dressed eight for the game. It felt like the guys we had up there gave us the best chance,” Garrett said via a report from Bloggin’ The Boys.

Still, we have 800 reps to look at to figure out where it went wrong for Charlton, and if he possesses a legitimate shot to fit this scheme and carve out spot in the future plans of the NFL’s most steadfast rebuild operation.

First, let’s start with the type of player Charlton was supposed to be coming out of Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan program.

The Dolphins are a team that adheres strongly to prototypes all over the field, but particularly in the trenches. Explosive metrics aren’t nearly as important as length, strength, read-and-react skillsets, intelligence to process and execute a variety of roles (stunts, twists, slants, picks), and most importantly, playing with heavy hands.

His fit begins with his build. At 6’6’’, 270-pounds with 34.5-inch arms, Charlton looks like plenty of defensive ends in a Brian Flores (Bill Belichick defense) before him. Charlton doesn’t check off all those boxes from the previous paragraph, but he hits enough of the buzz words to justify a flier.

This from Lance Zierlein of NFL Media.

That immediate get-off and quickness would’ve suited him better in Miami’s wide-9 alignment under Matt Burke. The length will benefit him, especially as he forces tackles to quickly get into their pass sets. The challenge will be developing a secondary move to work back inside and underneath the tackle.

The glowing praise for his twist, bend, and lower-body control will serve him well in a defense that will stunt, stunt, and stunt some more.

Most of all, the length will help him excel in this scheme as a run defender. To lock out and hold the point of attack are keys, and those are areas that put Charlton on the map as a first-round prospect.

The weaknesses from that blurb are alarming. Getting washed out of his gap by power and allowing blockers into his frame will earn him a quick ticket right out of town — those are the departments where the surprise cuts in Nate Orchard and Dewayne Hendrix struggled.

Lack of consistency, takes plays off, needs a coach that will push him — those are the final takeaways from Zierlein’s conversation with an anonymous AFC Executive.

If there’s any one thing you can point to with Flores as far as his football acumen — this excludes leadership and communication — it’s his ability to coach football (novel idea, huh?) This feels like a Flores pet project.

Let’s get into some of Charlton’s Dallas tenure, starting with his metrics from Pro Football Focus.

Charlton has 38 total pressures in his two years as a pro (4 sacks, 8 hits, 26 hurries). He compiled those numbers on 464 pass rush reps, a pressure on 8.2% of his pass rush snaps — not good. His 4.1 weighted pass rush productivity mark in 2018 ranked 132ndamong all edge rushers.

Charlton missed four tackles on 34 opportunities — an 11.8 missed tackle percentage, also not good. He made 23 run-stops on 346 snaps against the ground game. That mark — 6.6% — landed Charlton at 73rd among edge defenders in 2018, and 143rd in 2017.

The majority of Charlton’s work came from the right side of the defensive line (position vacated by Robert Quinn, currently held by a cast of many in Miami). Charlton lined up for pass rushing situations on the right side for 67.3% of his total reps.

Now, for the tape.

If Charlton can piece together the finer points of his game and develop a better arsenal or rush moves, he’ll stick as a building block. The decreased workload this year, his lack of production dating back to college, and inconsistencies makes one wonder about the drive and work habits.

We’ll quickly find out about the character of Charlton. If he embraces this opportunity, it’s a great landing spot for him. If not, he’ll be back on the unemployment line in short order.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Josh Rosen Named Starting QB vs Cowboys; Claim DE Taco Charlton

Chris Kowalewski

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Only minutes after the Miami Dolphins’ Week 2 loss against the Patriots, Head Coach Brian Flores maintained that Ryan Fitzpatrick was the starting quarterback… “Right now”.

By Thursday afternoon, it became clear that “right now” had passed as Josh Rosen was announced to take over the starting QB position ahead of Miami’s first road trip this Sunday against the Cowboys.

Fans had caught intermittent glimpses of Rosen’s abilities through the preseason and he has seen the field during replacement duty in Weeks 1 and 2, so far completing 8/21 passes for 102 yards, 2 INTs and a 38.1% completion percentage.

While Rosen has not yet led the Dolphins to regular season points, the second year passer will find his opportunity to do so in Dallas and the Dolphins will be able to make further evaluation of 2018’s tenth overall pick.

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s veteran standing and experience had given him the early advantage, but the time has arrived in for the Dolphins to see what the future may bring – if anything – for Josh Rosen in Miami.

Whilst the national attention seems to be focused on Chris Grier’s rebuild of the roster, the Dolphins have claimed former first round pick, DE Taco Charlton, released by the Cowboys on Wednesday.

Charlton was the Dallas Cowboys’ first round selection in 2017, having played in 27 games (7 starts) and registered 4.0 sacks and 47 combined tackles.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Cowboys Week Three Preview

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins Search to Stop the Bleeding in Big D

Who: Dolphins (0-2) at Cowboys (2-0)
When: Sunday September 22, 1:00 PM East
Where: AT&T Stadium — Arlington, TX
Weather: Dome
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +21

The hits keep coming for Miami. Another prominent fixture of the roster has been jettisoned, and another loaded team is on the docket for the downtrodden Dolphins.

This current iteration of the Dallas Cowboys is akin to what Miami hopes to build in a couple years’ time — stout trench play, emerging young quarterback, and star-studded skill positions.

Three touchdown underdogs for the second consecutive week, the Dolphins are introducing college point-spreads into the National Football League. Miami’s 19-point home handicap last week was the biggest such spread for a host team since the 2007 season, and the Dolphins are now channeling the 2013 Broncos-Jaguars game that climbed up over 25 points before betting closed.

The Dolphins were far more competitive last week, even if the scoreboard didn’t show it. Contributions from star Cornerback Xavien Howard, upstart Linebacker Jerome Baker, and surprising recent addition Vince Biegel were the silver linings in the 43-point thrashing; we’re looking for more of those in Dallas.

The Scheme:

Offense:

The switch from Scott Linehan to Kellen Moore might’ve been the biggest upgrade in the NFL this offseason. Moore, a coach’s son that made it to the NFL for his cerebral prowess at the quarterback position, is dressing up Dallas’ offense with disguise, misdirection, and tendency breakers.

Dallas varies it’s running scheme, but the talent to execute simple gap-schemes and power concepts allows Moore to get creative with the play action game. Cowboys players praise Moore for his nuance and emphasis on getting players in position to exhibit their best traits.

Scheming chunk-plays in the passing game, running the football to keep the offense on schedule, and devising red zone concepts to free up pass catchers in the condensed area already has Moore’s name circulating as the next hot head coaching candidate.

Defense:

On top of impeccable front-seven talent, the Cowboys borrow concepts from some of the most accomplished, revolutionary defensive schemes in the history of the league. Rod Marinelli still carries the title of Defensive Coordinator, but it’s a co-op with he and the up-and-coming Kris Richard.

With elements of the Tampa-2 from Marinelli’s days with the Bucs — and more recently in Chicago — fused with Richard’s rendition of the wildly popular scheme originated by Pete Carroll, Dallas is successful in a multitude of packages and pre-snap disguises.

Creating one-on-one rush opportunities from their elite pass rushers, while playing a variety of cover-3, 2, and 1 on the back-end, the Cowboys can apply pressure while dropping seven — the ultimate goal of every NFL defense.

Look for Chad O’Shea to attack this defense with more in-breaking routes. That means high-low and drive concepts (designed to displace zone coverage and attack the middle of cover-1 and Tampa-2 defenses) and seam shots with the Cowboys drop two deep.

The Players:

Offense:

Dak Prescott is off to an MVP-caliber beginning to his 2019 season. Prescott handles pressure in two ways — the type of pressure applied by ferocious fronts, and the pressure of big moments. He’s accurate, creates opportunities off-script, and allows Kellen Moore to utilize designed runs.

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Then there’s Zeke Elliot, who’s just getting rolling. Zeke, behind arguably the NFL’s best offensive line with the healthy Travis Frederic, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith and La’El Collins, Dallas can line up and push teams off the football.

The Dolphins must get big showings from Davon Godchaux and Christian Wilkins to hold the point-of-attack and free up Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan to meet Zeke in the hole.

Amari Cooper is one of the game’s best route runners, and he pairs that with size and speed. He’ll be a tough matchup for Miami, unless Xavien Howard wants to travel with the Cowboys play maker. That opens up another bag of worms, especially as Miami will be working in a new safety alongside corner-convert, Bobby McCain.

Jason Witten is back, but he serves mostly as an additional lineman and the forgotten man in the red zone (as far as the defense is concerned, Witten has two touchdowns already on plays that schemed him wide open). Michael Gallup will miss this game while the resurgent Randal Cobb will help keep the Miami defense honest horizontally in the misdirection game.

Defense:

Jaylon Smith leads the defense with his instinctive, urgent playing style that pairs well with uncommon physical traits. He and Leighton Vander Esch set the tone in the middle of the Dallas defense, and a lot of the scheme is designed to free these two up to wreak havoc. Smith’s athleticism allows Marinelli to keep the Tampa-2 concept alive.

Demarcus Lawrence is set to have a field day. Miami haven’t been able to block anybody this year, and now will have to handle one of the game’s best pass rushers against deafening crowd noise.

Byron Jones has fallen out of favor in Dallas. The dependable Jeff Heath, and the underrated Xavier Woods make it so, while Chidobe Awuzie locks down the opposition’s number one receiver. Dallas’ vulnerability in this position group from the perimeter corner position opposite Awuzie. Jones has been playing corner to pair with slot specialist Jourdan Lewis and Awuzie.

If Miami can create one-on-one passing opportunities into the boundary, look for O’Shea to attack vertically and hope to steal some points — the best bet here is likely Preston Williams.

The Medical:

The Concerns:

Quite literally all over the football field. Dallas can line up with power and milk the Dolphins defense dry. They can attack vertically, or in the controlled passing game with well-timed shot plays built into the offense, all on top of exceptional red zone production in the early going of 2019.

Demarcus Lawrence leads the team in pressures, but he’s only pulled the quarterback down once — that ties the team lead. This Cowboys pass rush is going to be champing at the bit to pad those stats, and there’s no reason to think Miami can handle the relentless pressure, even without blitzing.

The Opportunities:

Special teams might be the one area Miami can spark some magic. The Dolphins are off to a slow start in this department as well, but Jakeem Grant’s big-play ability will be needed if Miami are to pull the miracle upset.

Finding vertical shots — whether it’s Mike Gesicki splitting the Tampa-2, Preston Williams winning an outside release into the boundary without safety help, or getting a fly-by from Grant, Miami needs some fireworks.

The Projected Outcome:

The game plan came together defensively in the first half against the Patriots, but it’s a challenge for even the league’s best stop-units to carry a lifeless offense. Unless the Dolphins can finally sustain some drives and convert in the red zone, this game will get out of hand. It’s doubtful Miami can do that, so look for an aggressive offense that tries to hit the big play.

Dallas just has too much star power and excellent coordinators for Miami to pick them off — or even cover.

Dolphins 6
Cowboys 31

@WingfieldNFL

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